Brain surgery offers Parkinson's sufferers chance of better life
BRAIN surgery can significantly improve the quality of life for some people with Parkinson's disease, research has suggested.
Patients who underwent a technique known as deep brain stimulation (DBS) were able to take far fewer drugs afterwards, reducing potential long-term costs to the NHS, campaigners said yesterday.
Dr Kieran Breen, director of research and development at Parkinson's UK, said those who would benefit from the procedure should be offered it. Currently, not everyone who qualifies for treatment receives it on the NHS.
"If somebody is eligible for surgery they should be given surgery," he said. "For us that is the bottom line."
Parkinson's disease affects about 10,000 people in Scotland – one in 500 of the population.
The largest trial of its kind, which included 366 patients, monitored one group who underwent DBS and one just given medication.
It found those who were fitted with a neurostimulator – a device similar to a heart pacemaker which stimulates some areas of the brain and blocks abnormal nerve signals – were more likely to have improved than those who were just given the most appropriate drugs available.
A year after surgery, participants' motor function had improved, their symptoms reduced and they needed around a third (34 per cent) less medication than those who did not have the surgery.
Dr Breen said further analysis was now being carried out to look at how the 30,000 cost of the operation and follow-ups compared with the reduced costs of drugs.
"The amount you save in medication actually pays for itself in two to three years," he said.
Dr Breen said the members of the second group were offered surgery a year later and they are currently being monitored to see if they experienced similar improvements or were adversely affected by the delay.
Parkinson's UK said this type of surgery could be an effective option for up to one in 20 people with Parkinson's, in particular those whose symptoms are no longer adequately controlled by medication or who have particular unwanted side effects.
The 366 people included in the trial were aged under 70, suffered significant side effects as a result of their medication and were at an advanced stage of Parkinson's.
Professor Keith Wheatley, from the University of Birmingham, which co-ordinated the study, said: "This trial demonstrates a clear benefit of surgery compared to the best available drug therapies after one year."
'Even tying my laces was awkward'
BILL Paisley was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease six years ago after finding he was not able to move around so well.
"Everything just slowed down," he said.
"I could not walk that fast and even tying my laces was really awkward."
Mr Paisley, 73, from Broughty Ferry, was initially given tablets to help with the symptoms of Parkinson's.
But about three years ago, he was given to chance to undergo deep brain stimulation (DBS) at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
Mr Paisley said he saw the benefits almost immediately.
"The operation was about six and a half hours," he said.
"They drill through the skull and into the brain."
The device put into the brain delivers electrical stimulation to the parts of the brain that control movement, blocking the abnormal nerve signals that cause tremor and symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Mr Paisley's device stopped working recently and he had to have it repaired.
"It was such as relief to have it working again. I got such a fright when it stopped."
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